An Overview of Pu-erh
Pu-erh, Pu’erh or Puerh is a variety of fermented tea produced in the mountains of Yunnan province, China. Mostly from unoxidized Camellia sinensis, Pu-erh is processed from a “large leaf” variety of green tea.
Sold in loose form, bags or in cakes (similar to small hockey pucks), good quality pu-erh tea has a deep, rich flavor that many consider to be earthy, leathery or mushroomy. Bad quality pu-erh often tastes muddy or moldy. High quality pu-erh often appeals to coffee drinkers and pairs well with rich desserts.
The Legend of Pu-erh
According to legend, the ethnic Pu people in Yunnan began to grow tea and served it as tribute to the emperors as early as in the Chinese Shang and Zhou Dynasties (1066 – 221 BC). During the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 AD), merchants began packing these large tea leaves into compressed bricks to transport by pack animal. Because of the long distances and difficult terrain, it would be months and sometimes years before the tea would reach its destination. Something miraculous occurred during these extended delivery period – the tea changed. Not only did the color of the tea transform from green to amber and eventually to near black, but also the taste of the tea became livelier, richer and smoother. Unbeknownst to the merchants, the tea underwent an aging and fermentation process whereby microbes acted on the tea, causing biological and enzymatic changes. The resulting tea, now known to the Chinese as Pu-erh, became sought-after by royalty, high officials and the literati – and later by tea connoisseurs. Highly prized, the Chinese Imperial Army traded Pu’er bricks with Genghis Khan and the Tibetans for their strong horses and traders used Pu’er bricks as money in China, Mongolia, Tibet and Russia.
Steeping Pu-erh is easy. Simply heat spring or filtered water to 205 F (near boil). Then, pour water over loose tea or tea cake and steep for 2-3 minutes. Pu-erh has a similar bitterness to coffee and taste greats with cream and sugar.
*This tea can brewed several times, for each additional brew, please steep tea an extra 15-30 seconds.
Health Benefits of Pu-erh
In China, Pu-erh is commonly used as a blood purifier, hangover cure and digestive aid – especially after a healthy meal. According to WebMD, there is interest in using pu-erh tea for lowering cholesterol because, unlike other teas, it contains small amounts of a chemical called lovastatin. Lovastatin is a prescription medicine used for lowering cholesterol. Animal research suggests that pu-erh tea might lower certain blood fats called triglycerides as well as total and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. It might also raise “good” high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.